OnePlus phones are insanely popular and for good reason. The recently released OnePlus 9 Pro packs cutting edge hardware and software but also comes with the heaviest price tag OnePlus has ever put out. This might make some wonder, just how much has the OnePlus 9 Pro improved from its predecessor, the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Right off the bat, we have a big array of differences when we talk about the Build Quality and Design. Gone is the central camera signature OnePlus design that was found on the 8 Pro and it is replaced by a more generic, more Samsung like design with the camera module to the top left. In terms of design and looks alone, I think the OnePlus 8 Pro is definitely the phone that will stand out more. Hide the OnePlus logo with a case and many people will mistake the 9 Pro for a Samsung smartphone.
But going beyond looks and talking about the build, both phones pack Gorilla Glass 5 front and backs with an aluminium frame in the middle. Despite the same materials, the in-hand feel is very, very different. The OnePlus 9 Pro is ever so slightly smaller and lighter than the OnePlus 8 Pro but it is definitely easier to hold because of the curve of the glass panels. Let me explain. See, the glass on the OnePlus 8 Pro is curved very aggressively, which means it is not easy to get a good grip on it. It just feels very slippery and personally, very uncomfortable without a case. The OnePlus 9 Pro has gone easy on the glass curve and I truly believe that it has made a significant difference in usability. It is easier to grip without a case and does not feel like it is waiting to slip out.
Of course, the rough texture on my Stellar Black OnePlus 9 Pro is also more grippy compared to the satin texture on the Ultramarine Blue 8 Pro. In short, the OnePlus 8 Pro is the better looking phone while the OnePlus 9 Pro is the better feeling phone.
Moving on, let’s talk about the displays. Spec wise, both the displays are almost identical with the same resolution, the same 120 Hz refresh rate and even the same 6.7” size. But there are 2 big usability factors in the OnePlus 9 Pro’s favour. First is that the OnePlus 8 Pro had a widespread display issue problem where users reported a number of issues from black crush to smearing to green tint. I have it on my OnePlus 8 Pro and while it does not make the phone unusable, it does leave a bad taste. I tested the OnePlus 9 Pro extensively for the same defects, even made a video about it, and it had no such issues, which was a relief.
The second factor is the curves on the display. The display on the 8 Pro is curved a lot more aggressively as I said before and it is a major headache leading to many accidental touches and lots of unwanted glare.
Again, the OnePlus 9 Pro has reduced the aggressiveness of the display curve, thereby mitigating this problem. So, even though the display panels look extremely identical on the spec sheet, the OnePlus 9 Pro provides a substantially better experience.
Also read: Best OnePlus 9 Pro Cases
One area where the OnePlus 9 Pro does not provide a substantially better experience is the performance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, flagship smartphone CPUs have gotten so good that it is getting really hard to notice any differences, even for intense users. Yes, the newer Snapdragon 888 might have better benchmark numbers than the Snapdragon 865 on the 8 Pro but I was not able to observe any usability differences even in intense scenarios like gaming.
On the contrary, I observed that the OnePlus 9 Pro got warmer a lot sooner than the OnePlus 8 Pro, even for regular, non-intensive stuff. This
overheating has been reported by many users and I hope that OnePlus fixes it in a future software update. But until then, as of today, the OnePlus 8 Pro and 9 Pro are virtually identical performance-wise.
Of course, this might change 2-3 years down the line as the older OnePlus 8 Pro will show its age sooner but if you’re going to change your phone within the next 2-3 years anyway, I think you can go with either the 8 Pro or the 9 Pro.
Also read: Best Accessories for OnePlus 8 Pro
Let’s also talk a bit about software updates, an area where OnePlus has been performing really poorly in the past few months. To give you a bit of a recap, OnePlus has this track record of good software support until the particular model is the latest but as soon as the newer flagship comes out, the older model’s software updates get delayed by a lot. It happened with the OnePlus 8 Pro, where it got the Android 11 Update in October while the year older
OnePlus 7 Pro got it 6 months later in March. Going by this pattern, the OnePlus 8 Pro will definitely not get the software updates at the same time as the newer 9 Pro so keep that in mind when you make your decision.
Let’s talk about the cameras now! In terms of optics, both smartphones sport a quad camera setup on the rear and a 16MP front camera. The OnePlus 9 Pro sports a brand new 48MP Sony IMX789 sensor as the primary camera, a 50MP ultrawide, an 8MP telephoto camera with 3.3x optical zoom and a 2MP Monochrome camera. On the other hand, the OnePlus 8 Pro sports a 48MP Sony IMX689 sensor as the primary camera, a 48MP ultrawide, an 8MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and a 5MP color filter camera. This year, OnePlus has created a lot of hype by partnering with a well known camera brand, Hasselblad. Hasselblad has contributed to the color calibration aspect of photography for the OnePlus 9 Pro. Let’s find out how the 2021’s OnePlus flagship fares against last year’s OnePlus 8 Pro.
- In a vacuum, both devices have really good Primary camera performance. Both smartphones shoot sharp pictures with respectable details. Once we put these devices side by side, the OnePlus 9 Pro takes sharper pictures with accurate colors and an overall cooler tone. In short, the pictures shot with the 9 Pro are less contrasty and have a somewhat flat look as compared to the contrasty pictures shot with the OnePlus 8 Pro. On one hand, the 9 Pro also captures more accurate skin tones while on the flip side, the OnePlus 8 Pro captures pictures with a warmer tone and has better noise processing.
- We got even better performance on the OnePlus 9 Pro with the Ultrawide camera. It took detailed pictures with better colors, less fringing and industry leading distortion correction.
- The OnePlus 9 Pro is slightly better in terms of sharpness and colors when it comes to shooting with the telephoto camera.
- Macro performance is good on both devices. Although, the 8 Pro has the edge as it shoots pictures with more details and better noise reduction.
- The subject separation performance is almost identical on both devices. Although, the 9 Pro retains the highlights better while shooting outdoors.
- Selfies are where the OnePlus 9 Pro has finally got the much needed improvements. The 9 Pro captures skin tones with more details and more accurate colors. Both the OnePlus 7 and 8 series have struggled with getting the skin tones right but always ended up with an overly processed look.
- Low light Performance is very similar on both devices. The 9 Pro shoots brighter pictures with more accurate colors while the 8 Pro shoots pictures with better noise processing.
- The monochrome and filter cameras on both smartphones do a decent job. Although, I’d still recommend shooting with the primary camera and then editing in an app to get that filter look.
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